1915 The Life of a Tagalog Fisherman by Aquilino B. Atienza - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore 1915 The Life of a Tagalog Fisherman by Aquilino B. Atienza - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

1915 The Life of a Tagalog Fisherman by Aquilino B. Atienza

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1915 ethnographic paper1 written by one Aquilino B. Atienza from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

[Note to the reader/researcher: Although “Tagalog fisherman” may sound wider in context, this paper was classified under “Province of Batangas, Luzon.” There is every likelihood that the author himself was from Batangas and collected information within his home province.

Henry Otley-Beyer Collecdtion


[Cover Page.]

Tagalog Paper No. 227.



Aquilino B. Atienza

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1. TAGALOG: Province of Batangas, Luzon.

2. Economic Life: Fishing-industry; Commerce.

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October 15, 1915

[p. 1]



Aquilino B. Atienza.

The life of a Tagalog fisherman is one which we may characterize by the phrase hand to mouth. This may be due either to extravagance and gambling or to the lack of good methods and means of catching fishes; but I am inclined to believe in the former reason for there are those few who, in spite of their small earnings, are thoughtful enough to accumulate little by little and become owners of fishing traps, note: and boats. At present, we are to describe the life of a common fisherman in connection with his means and methods of catching fishes.

As there are some differences between fishing in the sea and in that of the lakes, it would be better to deal first with the fishing in the sea, since there the greater bulk of fishing is carried on. The most important means of catching fishes, both in the sea and in the lakes, is generally by nets. There are comparatively many varied forms and sizes of nets, each having a certain kind of fish to catch.

A large fishing net called “pokot” by the Tagalogs and a fishing boat are usually owned by a single person. The former costs the proprietor from three hundred to five hundred pesos, while the latter from one hundred to two hundred pesos. It requires from twelve to twenty-six men to carry on the operation of a fishing net. Among these fishermen, labor is divided. There

[p. 2]

are also some whose work is to repair the net only. None of these men receives a daily pay, but instead, each gets a proportional share of the catch. The whole catch is divided into two equal parts: one goes to the proprietor and the other to the workmen. The part which goes to the fishermen is divided into the following way: for example, there are twenty men, namely, a headman, three divers, and sixteen rowers. Then, their share is divided into twenty-four equal parts: the headman receiving two parts; each of the divers, two parts; and the rest, one each. The repairers get variable amounts.

As to the time the fishermen set out to fish, there is not a fixed one, for there are fishes that appear in the morning, while others, in the afternoon. Whatever the time may be, let it suffice to say that a group of fishermen starts out, and when they reach far out in the sea, they halt and watch for the appearance of a school of fish. When they see one, they note the direction and then spread the net on its course. As soon as the net is spread, the divers set to work at its largest end to keep it alone and to make the general form of the net concave. It is said that the amount of catch may depend upon the activity and skill of the divers. Then, there are several groups of fishermen catching the same school of fish. The whole catch is divided equally among the groups.

Next to the nets in importance are the traps. Like the nets, their costs vary according to size. They may cost from one hundred to two hundred and fifty pesos. These traps are made of bamboo and rattan. Unlike the nets, they cannot be moved

[p. 3]

from place to place in order to hunt for a school of fish, but have to wait for a chance. The division of the catch is approximately the same as that of the nets. Sometimes, a trap is owned by a corporation of three or four but, generally, by a single person only who furnishes the material and expense in making.

Both the traps and the nets [unreadable word] internal revenue to the municipal government. The lease of the fishing ground for the first is given to the highest bidder, and that of the second is according to the assessed value.

The other kinds of nets are not of considerable importance that they are not worth mentioning here. Fishing with lines is important in that it helps also in supplying the needs of the market to a considerable extent, and that the fishes caught in this way are excellent. Fishing at night is very common; but only small kinds of fishes that are attracted by light are caught. The fishermen carry with them torches of [unreadable word] bamboo called “sisig” or petroleum oil placed in a bamboo joint with a wick. The torch is held out from the fishing boat and the school of small fishes gather below the light; then, the fishermen with their small nets tied to a pole begin to gather the fish, and then they move from place to place to look for some more.

Fishing in the lakes is not extensive as to that of the sea, but it requires a special consideration since they supply most of the demands of local markets and generally those of the inland towns. The two large lakes we are concerned now are Laguna de Bay and Taal Lake. In Laguna de Bay, there are few traps

[p. 4]

but many large nets (pokots). The fish that is most abundant here and is caught in considerable numbers is what natives call “candole2.” This fish is taken to the inland towns by means of pack horses and train. Calamba supplies the inland towns of Santo Tomas, Tanauan, Lipa, Alaminos, and San Pablo by means of train. Pila, near the town of Santa Cruz, supplies Lilio3, Nagkarlang, Mahayhay, Magdalena and several others by means of pack horses. In this lake, fishing with lines is very rare. The fishermen in Laguna de Bay have a good way of catching shrimps. Branches of trees are heaped under the water about a meter deep. Then, the shrimps gather under the shades of the branches. After a few days, a trap made of bamboo is placed around the heap and so the shrimps can easily be collected.

So much for the fishing in Laguna de Bay. Let us now turn to the methods and means of catching fishes in Taal Lake. Here, the most important is fishing by traps. The shores of Taal Lake belonging to Taal and Lemery are lined with continuous traps. The most important fishing ground, however, is the one by the source of the Pansipit River, the outlet to Lake Taal. The trap in this fishing ground does not fail to have a catch every day.

Every three years, the lease of the fishing grounds is given to the highest bidder. At present, the lease of those belonging to the town of Taal alone is ₱57,000.000. Individuals who desire to start a fishing trap should apply to the corporation paying the ₱57,000.000 lease. A trap pays a lease of from from ₱20.00 to ₱50.

[p. 5]

The fishes that are caught in these traps in large numbers are what the natives call “Malipoto and Moslo.” “Malipoto” is much larger than the “moslo.” The former costs from sixty centavos to one peso and twenty centavos.

Nets are more extensively used though only in the fishing season. There are two kinds of fishing nets: one for large fishes and the other for small fishes. Both of these are used at night. Fishing with lines is very common.

From the above stated facts, we find that the life of Filipino fishermen in general, has not advanced much so far, but from the present interest in fishing taken by some, we can still hope for the future welfare of the Tagalog fishermen.

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Notes and references:
1 “The Life of a Tagalog Fisherman,” by Aquilino B. Atienza, published 1915 and later compiled as part of the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 In present day Tagalog, “kanduli.”
3 Probably Liliw.
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